MAN UNITED 2, CARDIFF CITY 0
Robin van Persie upstaged new record signing Juan Mata as Manchester United defeated Cardiff City to make legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Old Trafford return a miserable one.
Dutchman van Persie, back after a 12-match injury lay off, took less than six minutes to put the Reds on the road to a victory as they became the first team to amass 1,000 points at home in the Premier League.
Ashley Young also scored a screamer as United went some way to erasing the painful memory of losing to Sunderland one week earlier at Old Trafford in the semi final of the Capital One Cup.
This time there was no slip up as United looked re-energised with £37.1million capture Mata and van Persie in the side.
Manager David Moyes was delighted with the victory saying: “It was good all round to have Robin back, Juan to get his debut, have Wayne (Rooney) back on the bench and to get minutes and also to get three points.
“No matter how we did, to have Robin and Wayne back, and to give Juan his debut, gave everybody a lift.
“Our results with those three players will be much better. We have to get them into physical condition and get them match fit.”
Moyes added the return of van Persie and Rooney, allied to the arrival of Mata, will hopefully provide added competition.
He continued: “Ashley made and scored a goal and I want competition. If someone plays well, I will say do it again next week.
“Or if we lose someone through injury, we will them have others ready to come in.”
There was a feel-good factor at Old Trafford pre-match, something of a rarity this season, with Mata making his Reds’ debut while talisman van Persie returned to the starting line up following a long absence.
Rooney was also back after injury, but only as a substitute alongside an impressive cast of replacements which included Javier Hernandez, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher, Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj.
And United could not have wished for a better start as the returning van Persie made the all-important early breakthrough with Mata involved in the build up leading to the goal.
Antonio Valencia’s headed from Young’s cross crashed against the crossbar, van Persie’s follow-up shot was parried by keeper David Marshall with the Dutchman heading home the rebound from close range, his 11th goal of an injury-interrupted campaign.
It was far from one sided, though, and Cardiff could have drawn level midway through the half when a header from Mark Hudson was saved by the legs of keeper David De Gea.
Van Persie had a great chance to double United’s lead, but fired narrowly wide of the far post from a tight angle.
United finally put some breathing space between themselves and Cardiff when Young doubled their advantage just short of the hour.
The winger cut in from the left before unleashing a terrific 25-yard shot which arrowed low to the left of Marshall.
Rooney replaced van Persie midway through the second half and almost immediately saw a goal-bound shot deflected off Steven Caulker for a corner.
Marshall then managed to deflect Valencia’s shot on to the upright as United again went close to adding a third goal.
And in stoppage time, Rooney and Januzaj both sent shots flashing just past the upright as United finished in the ascendancy.